President Obama has announced a plan to make Pell grants available to prisoners for the first time in twenty years. The announcement got attention in the press, including Above the Law’s Redline. Redline’s Managing Editor, Elie Mystal, joins LBN’s Mark Wahlstrom to discuss this and other current issues in this report, including the shooting of Cecil the Lion, which he also covered for Redline.
Mystal notes that about the same time people on the social media were boiling with outrage over the killing of Cecil, a black man named Samuel Dubose was shot and killed at a traffic stop by a (then) University of Cincinnati police officer. “Do we have enough outrage to go around?” Mystal thinks we do.
He likes the return of Pell grants to prisoners, people whom “our system tends to treat . . . like undead humanoids devoid of soul or citizenship.” Mystal’s approach to the situation is simply that prisoners are people, and some day, most of them will again be on the streets. He doesn’t want them coming after him or his family. The best way to have prisoners who function like human beings when they get out is to treat them like human beings while they are locked up.
Mystal suggests that one of the biggest things driving social sensitivity and change at the present is technology, more so than the social media. Camera phones are everywhere, and they see everything. “Camera phones are why we care that this black guy got shot in the face.” When all of us can see why and how people are being arrested, we begin to see them as people and not as nameless statistics.
The social media are important, but it is easy for mob rule to break out suddenly, Mystal points out. Walter Palmer, the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion, has been overwhelmed with negative attention, including death threats. There is a difference between shaming and vigilante justice. “The Internet has no idea what that distinction is.” If the Internet had a sense of proportion, there would have been much more outrage over Samuel Dubose than Cecil the Lion. [[Note: Raymond Tensing, who shot Samuel Dubose, has been charged with murder; Tensing was released on a $1 million bond.] Mystal notes that the police officer’s report was that he was being dragged off by the suspect in the car. “People would have actually believed the police officer if not for video evidence” showing otherwise.
Mystal says that we should take all “only eyewitness” testimony with a grain of salt. He wants to see it in order to believe it. “Tom Brady: I don’t what was on his phone. I want to see it.” Pictures are important.
Elie Mystal, the Managing Editor of Above the Law: Redline, joined Above the Law in 2008 by winning the ATL Idol Contest. Prior to joining ATL, Elie wrote about politics and popular culture at City Hall News and the New York Press. He was formerly a litigator at Debevoise & Plimpton but quit the legal profession to pursue a career as an online provocateur. He's written editorials for the New York Daily News and the New York Times, and he has appeared on both MSNBC and Fox News without having to lie about his politics to either news organization. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.